Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund

Special Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund
The Red Sea Fund aims to support young and ambitious filmmakers to carve a niche for themselves in the industry. (Red Sea Int. Film Festival)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund

Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund
  • Winning ‘Lithium’ movie tackles bipolar disorder
  • Over $100,000 set aside for 23 individual MENA projects

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s support for the film industry continues with the Red Sea Fund’s announcement of its second-cycle winners, which will mean financial resources to bring their projects to fruition.

The fund, administered by the Red Sea Film Foundation, has allocated about $100,000 for 23 individual projects that will cover production, distribution and screening.

The aim is to provide a more diverse set of movies to global audiences and better serve both Saudi and Arab filmmakers.

“It means a great deal to us that the Red Sea Fund believes in this story enough to fund it. It’s both an honor and a responsibility,” Saudi filmmaker Talha B. told Arab News. He will be co-directing the winning project “Lithium” along with fellow creative Amro B.

The feature film tackles the subject of bipolar disorder and the silent suffering of individuals with mental health issues in the Arab region.

“It is a great responsibility to present this subject in a positive yet honest way, and we intend to do it the justice it deserves … It tackles a subject that we rarely admit we have in our society. We hope that more bold stories like this are told candidly because, like physical health, mental health too matters,” Talha said.

The film is currently in development and is set to premiere at the 2023/2024 Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah.

The rest of the 23 selections include shorts, documentaries, animated films and documentaries, with five submitted from Africa, 11 from the Arab region, and seven by Saudi directors.

The aim is to support young and ambitious filmmakers to carve a niche for themselves in the industry.

“It’s very fresh and exciting witnessing the great things Red Sea films are achieving and presenting to the filmmakers in Saudi Arabia and the world. The funded films speak a lot about the amount of understanding for both the creative process and the craftsmanship behind the walls of their visionary team and their out-of-the-box thinking,” Anas BaTahaf, the filmmaker and upcoming producer of the selected film “Hayat Yousef,” told Arab News.

BaTahaf is teaming up with long-time collaborator Sarah Taibah who will be joining as a screenwriter on the upcoming project that features meaningful character arcs, quirkiness, blended-genres, and “high voltage” absurdity, all packed within a contemporary dark romcom.

“Taibah’s knowledge and thorough understanding of romance — from her various art projects on studying love as a feeling and theme during a wide range of art residencies around the world — is another quality that grants her my full trust when it comes to telling this story,” BaTahaf said.

The aim to tell unconventional stories is the reason for the selection of “Red Eye,” set to be directed by filmmaker Mohammad Jastaniah.

“After so many trials, errors, and rejections it’s nice to see once again that persistence pays off, let alone being supported by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation — a place I call home. It feels special,” Jastaniah told Arab News.

The film is an “allegory” for the artist’s experience in Saudi, he said. “Red Eye” follows the story of a man navigating the stigma of being a rock star, fighting his own demons, and dealing with his relationship with his father.

“It speaks for those who stand out in the crowd, and there are so many of us out there, especially in these exciting times of change happening in the Kingdom. Pinch me because it feels like a dream,” Jastaniah said.

“I am very excited for our film and all the other films that won (backing) … Local filmmakers deserve all the praise and support,” said BaTahaf.

He said he was looking forward to his friends seeing the “great” films that were made.


The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize

The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize
Desiree Bollier in the Chair and Global Chief Merchant of The Bicester Collection. (Getty Images)
Updated 28 November 2022

The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize

The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize

DUBAI: An international retail firm has launched the MENA edition of a prize for first-time women entrepreneurs that would allow them to set up or develop their startup businesses.

The Middle East and North Africa edition of The Bicester Collection’s “Unlock her Future Prize” was announced for enterprises that drive positive environmental, social and economic change, according to the company.

The Bicester Collection is a group of 11 open-air shopping destinations across Europe and China, which includes the Bicester Village outlet mall in Oxfordshire, UK. They launched the initiative in 2021 as part of their DO GOOD platform and have now expanded to the Middle East. 

“We’re delighted that in its inaugural year, the Unlock Her Future Prize will launch in MENA with the support of our partner Ashoka Arab World,” Chantal Khoueiry, chief culture officer for The Bicester Village, told Arab News.

“As an Arab woman, I believe I can speak for all when I say how committed we are to driving women’s empowerment and cultural progress. We recognize that if you have diverse voices, you can transcend anything. This is the essence of what we hope the Unlock Her Future Prize MENA edition 2023 will provide on behalf of Arab Women — the voice and support to build a progressive and sustainable future for people and the planet.”

Khoueiry added that applicants with an innovative idea, and those who have been operating for under five years, are invited to apply between Dec. 5 and Jan. 31, 2023.

An international committee of experts will review the applications and shortlist eight finalists who will be invited to pitch their ideas in Bicester Village, UK, to a panel of judges from the MENA region. Three winners will be announced on International Women’s Day next year.

“The winners will each receive a financial grant of up to $100,000 plus human capital support from a fantastic assembly of global experts.” They will also have access to an education and knowledge program with the prize’s regional academic partner, New York University Abu Dhabi, said Khoueiry.

  


Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
  • RUSH event allows video-game aficionados to experience latest tech

RIYADH: The RUSH festival, the largest event for virtual sports and games, opened at the Riyadh Front on Saturday as part of the Riyadh Season of activities.

Over five days, it will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences.

They will get the chance to play real games such as “Fortnite,” “FIFA,” and “Valorant.” The event will also bring together the best international teams so that the biggest tournaments and direct qualifiers can be held on the e-sports stage.

Representatives of the 25 E-Sport organization greeted fans at the event’s meet-and-greet booth.

Aoun, the organization’s director of operations, told Arab News: “We have content makers and professional players in all games, and we came to meet the audience here.”

HIGHLIGHT

Over five days, the RUSH festival will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences. They will get the chance to play real games such as ‘Fortnite,’ ‘FIFA,’ and ‘Valorant.’

The festival aims to provide fun video games, competitions, and challenges through direct tournaments with prizes, and includes live entertainment shows, DJ performances, an augmented reality experience, and a cosplay competition.

The Valar Club booth was promoting e-sports for women.

Malak Al-Qahtani, founder of Valar Club, told Arab News: “Valar Club is the first licensed women’s club from the federation’s electronic sports, and our goal is to help female Saudi players, as they aspire to the world, and help with their training.”

Saudi YouTuber Pika Loli travelled from Jeddah to attend the event.

“This event brings together most of the YouTubers and gamers, and it is a good opportunity to get to know each other, and it will increase our followers and grow the channel on YouTube.”

Some of the cosplayers were dressed as video game characters.

Abdulelah Al-Qahtani said: “Today we are dressed as characters from the ‘Genshin Impact’ game, and I think this is so good that Saudi Arabia brought up a hidden community, like cosplayers and gamers.”

With a focus on the whole of the gaming industry, from console and PC gaming to mobile and e-sports, the RUSH festival aims to give gaming aficionados the opportunity to access and experience the latest tech and the chance to interact with each other in real life, and online.

Tickets for the event are available via https://riyadhseason.sa/event-details-en.html?id=599/en_RUSH.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Souk unveils three programs for aspiring filmmakers

Photo (@RedSeaFilm)
Photo (@RedSeaFilm)
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Souk unveils three programs for aspiring filmmakers

Photo (@RedSeaFilm)
  • The Red Sea 360 offers four days of talks on production, finance and innovation in the entertainment industry

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Souk has unveiled three programs to help aspiring movie-makers during a film festival in Jeddah next month.

Talent Days, the Red Sea 360 industry talks, and the Networking Sessions during the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah between Dec. 1 and Dec 10.

Taking place Dec. 7-8, Talent Days is a series of meetings, workshops and events aimed at nurturing a new generation of filmmakers.

“It is an initiation into the cinema industry for aspiring filmmakers through inspiring talks and individual meetings to help the ideas in their heads take a more tangible form," according to the festival's website.

This year, the Talent Days program has been redesigned to focus entirely on a new generation of filmmakers. Those attending will receive insight from industry professionals.

Participants will also have access to five dedicated mentors from within the cinema industry.

The Red Sea 360 offers four days of talks on production, finance and innovation in the entertainment industry.

Participants can join up to 13 sessions on subjects including sales and distribution, co-productions, investment opportunities in the Arab region, incentives and tax rebates, funding, streaming, music, storytelling, episodic content and the Metaverse.

More than 50 film industry professionals will share their knowledge and expertise during the program between Dec. 3 and Dec 6.

The Networking Sessions will take place across three days from Dec. 3 and Dec. 5 to provide opportunities for new entrants and emerging filmmakers to connect with key industry players during informal 15-minute speed meetings.

They will include more than 80 selective industry guests, spread over three sessions focusing on development, production and distribution.

Myriam Arab, lead consultant for the Red Sea Souk, said: “We warmly welcome all participants to hear from some of the best industry key players, and to make the most of these mentoring and matchmaking opportunities.

“Knowledge-sharing, support and networking are deeply important to talent development. We are delighted to have such fantastic cinema professionals on board sharing their expertise so generously.”

 


Artist Amira Nazer celebrates Jeddah women through mermaid-inspired exhibition

Artist Amira Nazer celebrates Jeddah women through mermaid-inspired exhibition
Updated 27 November 2022

Artist Amira Nazer celebrates Jeddah women through mermaid-inspired exhibition

Artist Amira Nazer celebrates Jeddah women through mermaid-inspired exhibition
  • Home city of Jeddah provides inspiration for Amira Nazer showcase
  • Artist hopes to inspire conversation about physicality and experience through artwork

JEDDAH: Artist Amira Nazer is showcasing her first solo exhibition at Hafez Gallery in Jeddah until Dec. 24.

“Huriyyat Jeddah,” which is curated by Basma Harasani, presents a series of photo sculptures that explores the tension, freedom, and beauty present in women’s lives through the use of fabric and the metaphor of the mermaid.

Nazer, who was born and raised in the historic port city, says she is proud of her roots.

She told Arab News: “It’s the biggest influence on how I conceive the world. Everything I experience is coming through the eyes of a Saudi woman.”

Nazer’s artistic journey began while she was a student at Columbia University in New York. Her passion for art prompted her to pursue a double major in political science and the visual arts.

She became aware of the stereotypes that surround Arab women while photographing friends.

(Supplied/Yassir Alhaidari)

She said: “It was always associated very negatively, like there was this imposition of coverage.

“I’ve always been drawn to material, and growing up while expressing myself in clothes was how I chose to differentiate myself and be creative.

“It was weird for a white man to tell me I’m oppressed. No, this is my choice. And it got me thinking of fabric.”

Nazer’s dream of a beautiful mermaid emerging from the sea, the debate over freedom or restriction and its parallels with Arab women and their garments, heavily influenced her work.

And the 23-year-old draws on this visual concept to communicate the individual’s experience of being comfortable in one’s physicality in relation to the environment felt by her subjects in her photographs.

It was important to the artist not to dictate the experience of the girls, all of whom lived in Jeddah but came from diverse cultural backgrounds. 

One of Nazer's photo sculptures made of shalki cotton. (Supplied/Yassir Alhaidari)

Encouraging them to choose how they wanted to cover their body, Nazer captures various physical narratives while, working with stylist and childhood friend Latifa Bint Saad, she chose fabrics that represented her youth and the Saudi home, such as shalki and gingham. 

The earthy tones emphasize the natural environment, which is central to the series, while the use of pink introduces femininity.

The images were printed onto the fabrics in which the women were photographed to reinforce the message.

Nazer experiments with the use and meaning of “material” to represent the composition of existence and the idea of materializing photographs into reality.

(Supplied/Yassir Alhaidari)

“Hurriyat Jeddah,” which means “The Mermaids of Jeddah,” is an exhibition that reflects Nazer’s journey as a Saudi woman, and those of many around the world who are subjected to others dictating their reality.

Nazer said: “What I hope to evoke is a conversation, exactly like I had with myself when I had the dream.

“This is what this piece is about: the voices of the women of Jeddah and the beauty of the experience in all its complexity.

“Diversity within the framework is what unifies it. There’s no one way; there’s no wrong way or right way. The differences in the experience are what unites it.”

 


History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up
Updated 26 November 2022

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up
  • Festival gave ancient landscapes a new lease of life

KHAYBAR: Past, present and future came together as the inaugural Ancient Kingdoms Festival drew to a close with a series of dramatic events showcasing three historic oases of the northwest — AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma — for a modern audience.

The festival, launched on Nov. 11, was the first of its kind to focus entirely on the sites, which were at the crossroads of culture in ancient times, and also centers of influence and wealth.

By focusing on a range of events, including cultural performances, workshops and sightseeing opportunities, the festival gave these ancient landscapes a new lease of life, with many of the activities expected to continue after the festival’s close.

A spectacular show lit up the night sky as 1,450 drones formed shapes while an orchestra played music by UK composer Matt Faddy. The show will continue until Dec. 15, 2023.

FASTFACT

A spectacular show lit up the night sky as 1,450 drones formed shapes while an orchestra played music by UK composer Matt Faddy. The show will continue until Dec. 15, 2023.

Visitors to Khaybar can still explore the mysterious prehistoric stone structures on foot, or by car or a 20-minute helicopter excursion, hovering over the old and new.

“We made this festival to reflect the stories behind all the ancient civilizations that lived around or in these three places,” Abdulrazzag Alanzi, a local storyteller and tour guide, told Arab News.

Alanzi used to visit his cousins in Khaybar as a child and still recalls hearing stories about the region going back centuries.

“I used to love reading a lot of fictional stories and also a lot of old stories, and when I heard about something that happened in this area many years ago, it always fascinated me. This is what pushed me into this line of work, tourism,” he said.

“AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma have a lot of historical stories and a lot of information that we need to show the world.”

Fahad Aljuhani, a storyteller who describes the area as the “greatest living museum,” also came to the area as a child to connect with his cousins — and to discover hidden treasures.

“I’m a ‘Rawi’ and ‘Rawi’ in English means a storyteller. Now we are on an island that floats on a sea of rock which is Khaybar. I used to come to Khaybar and visit my relatives, and they would tell us a story about the tombs and the oasis, and I didn’t have the chance to visit them until now,” he told Arab News.

Aljuhani said that 5 million years ago, hundreds of volcanic eruptions occurred simultaneously in the area.

“If you feel the rocks, they seem to generate heat from within, similar to those who choose to watch over the land today and tell its many-layered stories,” he said.

Tour guide Enass Al-Sherrif told Arab News that she is excited to see people, including those from around the Kingdom, taking the time to learn about their past.

Al-Sherrif describes her job as the best she could ever have.

“I am really proud and honored. And I want to show you and make you feel the experience, how we transformed this place into an amazing destination for others to come and visit us,” she said.

The festival and its extended program aims to shed light on the legends and legacies of ancient times in the Kingdom’s northwest region, allowing visitors to explore and learn about the “largest living museum in the world.”

It is two years since AlUla began reopening heritage sites to domestic and international tourists with its pioneering Winter at Tantora program, which lasts until March.

While the Ancient Kingdoms Festival wrapped up on a chilly day on Nov. 27, many of the visitor experiences will continue well beyond the festival period, with some available year-round.

“The northwest Arabian Peninsula is the jewel in the heritage crown of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a source of fascination for a global community of archaeologists and researchers. Their discoveries shed new light on the societies that endowed the region with such relics of the ancients, preserved in wonders of prehistoric geology, art, and historical architecture that reveal important truths,” the Royal Commission for AlUla, which hosted the event, said in a statement.

The commission plans to host the Ancient Kingdoms Festival annually. Further details are available on its website.